Student Artist Spotlight: ‘My music is vulnerable’: Téo Rodriguez ’24 opens up through rap

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Rapper Téo Rodriguez ’24 is currently working on new music that will be released by May. (Photo courtesy of Téo Rodriguez ’24)

When Téo Rodriguez ‘24 was in high school, his classmates never said his name right. Now, as an established rapper, people at Lafayette and beyond know his name and his music.

Rodriguez, known as just Téo to his audience, started rapping and writing his own music because of hip-hop artist J. Cole. He was inspired to write his own version of the song “January 28” from Cole’s album “2014 Forest Hills Drive.” Though he was at a loss about what to write after the first line, it was the start of his musical ventures. 

Since that moment, he has been writing, producing and performing songs. During his freshman year of high school, he put out his first project on SoundCloud, a six-song mix called “Lyricism.” He would perform at talent shows and small gigs, stepping even deeper into the music and performing world. During his senior year, he dropped his EP “Smoke Lounge Seven.”

“Senior year is when I really started taking music for real, and I also got a lot better,” Rodriguez said. 

Fast forward to his college career, and Rodriguez has performed in over ten shows since coming to Lafayette. He has taken the stage at Lafayette Interdisciplinary Music Society concerts, Lafchella and events within the theater department and downtown Easton.

Rodriguez is currently in the process of creating a music video for his newest song “Shit to Say,” shot and directed by Cole Raymond ‘22 and Lillian Curry ‘22. The video will stream on YouTube this weekend and the song will be released on SoundCloud in May. 

According to Rodriguez, the song addresses certain grievances he has with people and how he sees people interact with each other. The song, like all of his others, is based on Rodriguez’s personal experiences and thoughts.

“I base my songs on relatability and try to share real-life experiences and stuff that I’ve gone through,” he said. “My music is vulnerable. That’s something I’ve chosen to do, and that’s just a reflection of how I am as a person. I’m vulnerable.”

“Shit to Say” will be the first song Rodriguez has personally put out since his EP in January 2020. Last year, he featured on the song “Dear Mary” by his friend and rapper Shane Finesse, released on streaming platforms including Apple Music and Spotify.

“It’s been a while since I’ve put out something personally, so I’m definitely excited for that,” Rodriguez said. 

Through his many years rapping, music has been an outlet for Rodriguez to convey his emotions. 

“Music has allowed me to express myself and be more articulate,” he said. “I’ve learned to be more accepting of my emotions and … to not be as afraid to express my emotions.”

Rodriguez recognizes his progress as a rapper from the music he made when he started in high school to his current work. As he gains more life experiences, he also has a wider range of content to express in his songs. Combined with countless hours of writing and listening to all kinds of hip-hop and rap, Rodriguez has seen growth as an artist. 

“I went from somebody that likes hip-hop and rap, to being a rapper, to now stepping into the artist realm,” Rodriguez said. “I think people definitely take me more seriously now.” 

Currently, one of Rodriguez’s main goals is to finish recording an album and release it on streaming platforms. While he is not entirely sure of his long-term plans, he knows that his passion for music will not stop. As a theater major with a minor in film and media studies, the entertainment industry will continue to have a presence in his life. 

Rodriguez and his music can be found on his Instagram @Téotherapper.